Programs, Policies, and Procedures

Project Step Student

Success in the classical music profession requires many things: an early start, talent, and motivation; access to appropriate instruments and equipment, comprehensive training from excellent and dedicated teachers; enrichment activities, including attending concerts and participating in master classes and performances; family and peer support; and ongoing informed guidance tailored to each student’s individualized needs.

Project STEP’s programs are categorized by age and include: FOCUS, (Kindergarten), Youth Preparatory Division (Grades 1-2), Preparatory Division (Grades 3-5), Junior Division (Grades 6-8), and Senior Division (Grades 9-12).

Project STEP provides the following for its participants:

  • Weekly private lessons
  • Weekly class instruction in music theory and solfège
  • Two master classes each season taught by established artists
  • Chamber music coaching
  • Student recitals
  • Orchestral music coaching
  • Opportunity to attend numerous performances each year by established artists and ensembles
  • Summer music study
  • Parent Council with monthly meetings
  • Continuing guidance into the conservatory / university level and beyond
  • Low-interest loans available for the purchase of musical instruments after graduation

Attendance Requirements

Project STEP offers a comprehensive suite of activities including music instruction, classes and enrichment opportunities. We maintain high expectations, and we provide support for our students and families to meet those expectations. Our families are committed to ensuring that their children get the most out of Project STEP, and they accomplish this by enjoying regular participation in the following activities:

Project Step Student
  • Weekly private lessons, theory or solfège classes, workshops, orchestra rehearsals and chamber music coachings
  • Masterclasses
  • The Spring Recital (students perform)
  • Community Service (2 per school year) – date to be chosen by students / families
  • Attendance at professional performances in the Boston area (students submit two concert reports to the office per school year)
  • Mid-year and Year-end workshops with the Artistic Director and piano accompanist
  • Mid-year and Year-end performance evaluations (exams)

Students are often invited to participate in musical activities outside of Project STEP, and we ask that they coordinate such activities with the program in order to avoid conflicts.

Academic Performance Requirements

Project STEP was designed to give the most talented underrepresented students of color the training and support needed to become professional musicians. In order for this to happen, both musical and academic excellence is required. Analytical thought is the cornerstone of being able to be an expressive and literate musician. To succeed in college or conservatory young musicians need to have a strong academic background. In our students, we have found a correlation between participation in this long-term, intensive music program and success in school. At the same time, balancing the rigors of academic and musical life is a challenge for all students, and developing the organizational skills to find this balance is very important to Project STEP.

Academic Watch

‘Academic Watch’ serves as a warning that a student is not making sufficient progress in the program and the student may be referred to another program if improvement does not occur. If s/he is unable to meet the particular standards of Project STEP, it will be recommended that the student transfer to a different music program. STEP will work with these students to help them get scholarships with other music programs.


The primary tool for evaluating our students’ progress is two performance evaluations (Mid-year and Year-end). The evaluations measure progress through student performances of scales and etudes, pieces, and sight reading. Each parent and student is given specific feedback on areas of strength and weakness, with suggestions on how to improve areas of weakness.

In addition, Project STEP is implementing its first complete program evaluation, in which every aspect of instruction is being analyzed for its efficacy. This is a three-year project that will be completed in the spring of 2015. The evaluation tool was modeled on similar tools that originated from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and results will be used to put in place any necessary changes that are indicated by the evaluation.

Project STEP Class

Evaluation Requirements

Students must perform the following at a yearly performance evaluation in May.

We are currently revising the evaluation requirements for each division. The requirements below have been used in past years and may act as a guide for what to expect. Please check back at a later date for a more up-to-date evaluation requirement list.

Youth Preparatory Division (Grades 1-3)
Preparatory Division (Grades 4-7)
Pre-College Division (Grades 8-12)


Other factors that will be considered in mid-year and year-end evaluations are:

  • Jury grades from performance exam (largest single factor)
  • Private Teacher’s grade
  • Theory grade
  • Chamber Music (*Tardiness and absences will affect grades)
  • Composer of the Month reports
  • Community Service
  • Concert Reports
  • Attendance at required performances and masterclasses

The last four factors are the responsibilities of students. If a student misses one element, s/he will receive a warning. If a student misses two elements, s/he will be placed on probation.

Annual Program Fee

Project STEP has an annual program fee of $350. The purpose of this fee is for parents to participate in the cost of their students’ instruction to a nominal extent. The fee represents approximately 5% of the direct instruction costs, and 3% of the costs of operating the program. Full payment or the Financial Assistance Application is due in early October.

Project STEP Student Performs

Please Note: We will work out a payment plan with you, and financial aid is available through the request described below. But all fees must be paid or on a payment plan by November in order to register for the second semester of the program. Any families who have not paid or are not on a payment plan by that date will either not be able to register for the Spring semester, consistent with the New England Conservatory Preparatory Division policy, or will have to audition back into the program for admittance the following year.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available for the program fee. We encourage families to apply who will find the program fee burdensome. Families who wish to apply should complete the Application for Financial Aid in the section of this book called ‘Agreement Forms and Financial Aid Information’. Financial aid awards may cover up to 90% of the program fee. Families must reapply for financial aid each year. All information relative to the financial aid application is confidential. Applications are reviewed only by members of the Financial Assistance Committee of the Board of Directors. The Executive Director is informed of the decision only and applies the aid to the fee balance. Financial Aid applications are due by the first Friday in October. A late fee of $25 will be added to those applications that are not in by the deadline. Information about your application will be communicated approximately four weeks after submitting the form.